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Autism hug clue

12th February 2010

Researchers believe that delays at crucial points during the development of the brain in the womb may explain why people with a condition linked to autism do not like hugs.

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Writing in the journal Neuron, the team from Edinburgh University believes the discovery may explain why people with the condition are hypersensitive to physical contact.

It follows a study in mice with fragile X syndrome which found wiring in the part of the brain that responds to touch is formed late.

Study leader Professor Peter Kind said: “We've learned these changes happen much earlier than previously thought, which gives valuable insight into when we should begin therapeutic intervention for people with these conditions.

“It also has implications for the treatment of autism since the changes in the brains of fragile X and autistic people are thought to significantly overlap.”

The National Autistic Society said the research could help understanding of certain aspects of autism.

Dr Gina Gómez de la Cuesta said: “Autism is common in people with fragile X syndrome, however there are many other causes of autism, most of which are not yet fully understood.

“Understanding how the brain works when a person has fragile X syndrome could help put some of the pieces together about what is happening in the brain when a person has autism, but it is not the whole story.”

In addition to mental impairment, hyperactivity, emotional and behavioural problems, anxiety and mood swings, people with fragile X often do not make eye contact, physical contact and are hypersensitive to touch and sound.

 

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